Glossary of speed reading terms, techniques and concepts

The glossary of Spd Rdng, speed reading and photoreading terms, techniques and concepts is constantly being updated, and terms added.

80/20 rule (also known as Pareto Principle)
The ‘rule’ states that 20% of the effort you expend in any enterprise gives you 80% of the result you want to achieve, while the remaining 80% of your effort generates only the remaining 20%. So a high percentage of effects in any large system are caused by a low percentage of variables. In reading, the implication is that if you are happy with achieving 80% of your purpose, you will gather five times as much information in the same time. Also, in most books, more than 80% of the message is contained in less than 20% of the words – hence looking for the hot spots of key information (cf Stauffer). In practice, 80% of progress comes from 20% of the effort. Also named the Pareto Principle by Joseph M Juran, after the Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, who first noticed that 80% of peas in his garden were produced by 20% of peapods.

A
Audiobooks
Audiobooks are spoken audio information, educational and entertainment books and programmes. The most popular platform is Audible which is part of Amazon. You can choose between full unabridged and abridged (a kind of summary) versions.  You can sync your audiobook with the ebook as well. You can speed up the rate of the audio delivery (up to three times). The avarage speed of most audiobooks is 150wpm depending on the lector (and sometimes it’s the author). 

B
Background reading
As well as focused, purposeful reading, it is also beneficial to read as much as possible of anything which interests you, since it isn’t always possible to predict which information will be of use, and creating links between your subject and others is what leads to creativity.

Book Summaries (also Executive Book Summaries and Business Book Summaries)
A comprehensive and usually brief abstract or synthesis of the key messages of a book.
Students learn more from summaries than entire chapters

Bookaholic
Someone who is addicted to reading books. Probably one of the best addictions to have. Still can be expensive.

Brain Gym
Series of exercises which, according to its creators, Paul and Gail Dennison, stimulate both hemispheres of the brain and the energy system of the body (in the same way as acupunture or acupressure). Recommended during breaks to quickly get into a good state for reading.

Breaks
It is important to take regular breaks from reading in order to maintain an optimum state and increase the likelihood of remembering information (cf primacy and recency effect).

Business Book Summaries (also Executive Book Summaries and Book Summaries)
Students learn more from summaries than entire chapters

C
Cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance is an ability of holding two very different ideas in your mind at the same time.

Comprehension
Understanding what you read is essential if you are to make use of the information. The more information you have, the easier it is to understand it – so read more. The better your vocabulary, the easier it is to understand texts, and the best way to increase your vocabulary is to read more.

Compressed speech
Compressed speech (or time-compressed speech) is an audio technology that allows to increase the information density of an audiobook or audio file. For example, a 20-min talk can be compressed to 5-min talk. The gaps between words are removed and the rate of speech is increased significantly. This is different from the automatic speeding up of audiobooks where only the rate of speech is increased (usually up to three times). Read more about compressed speech / time-compressed speech

Concentration point
Focusing on this point, about 30cm above and behind the top of the head, can increase the ability to read (eg with dyslexia), the speed of reading, and the ability to take in information.

D
Difference
Consciously looking for difference (rather than sameness) when reading, leads to learning about new things.
To a large extent, our approach to reading is driven by difference: people are different and take in and process information in different ways, books are different and need different approaches, purposes for reading are different, you need to read different books at different speeds, etc – which is why you need a variety of techniques which offer a flexible approach
.

Dipping
Slowing down briefly to read more closely when you have found a hot spot of key information.

Direct learning
One possible effect of downloading, where the downloaded information is spontaneously available, either to the conscious mind, or to the body where it manifests as a skill (eg better golf swing) or better physical health.

 Downloading
Looking very briefly (one second per page) at every page of a book, being confident that the information will be taken in by the non-conscious mind, even when it is not seen consciously. Downloading is one (key) step in the PhotoReading Whole Mind System, where it is known as ‘PhotoReading. Downloading may lead to direct learning; cf rapid reading (from cover to cover)

Dyslexia
Term used to describe innate difficulties with reading and writing. The ‘disability’ can have any one of numerous causes. It can slow down the initial stages of learning to read (confusing one letter shape with another, for example), but once this has been overcome, it is usually causes more problems with writing and spelling than with reading. Most of the techniques advocated here make reading easier for those diagnosed as dyslexic.

E
Executive Book Summaries (also Book Summaries and Business Book Summaries)
Students learn more from summaries than entire chapters

Expectations
Since actual performance rarely matches up to expectations, if you lower expectations, performance will also fall. It is therefore important to keep expectations high – read more, more quickly.

Eye exercises
Exercise the eyes (palming, focusing alternately on objects near and far, etc) in order to keep them in optimum condition for reading.

Eye patterns (also speed-reading eye patterns)
Patterns such as super-reading, skittering (zigzag, first and last, middles, random) that people use to look for hot spots of key information when they are (consciously reading more quickly; cf F-pattern

Eye regression (or regression)
When your eyes jump back to text that has already been read – which can significantly slow down reading.

F
Familiarity
How familiar you are with the text or the subject matter (how big is your schema) will have a great influence on how quickly you are able to read. Read about scheme

First and last
One of the skittering techniques (a speed-reading eye pattenr) people use to look for hot spots of key information when they are (consciously) reading more quickly. In this case people look at the beginnings and endings of the book, each chapter, each section, each page or even each paragraph, particularly if they have identified that this is where the particular author is likely to put key information.

Fixation
The eyes do not move smoothly and evenly along a line of text when reading. They jump from one point to the next. Each ‘jump’ is called a saccade. Each point where it stops is a fixation. The point of fixation is in focus (in foveal vision), but words to either side will be slightly out of focus (in peripheral vision). Opening your peripheral vision and taking fewer fixations line will help you read more quickly.

Fixed mindset
It has been proven that people who believe that intelligence is fixed are less effective learners than those with a growth mindset who believe that intelligence develops with experience and practice

Flexibility
Effective readers are flexible about the speed at which they read and in the techniques they employ – the more techniques and approaches you know, the more flexible you can be; Spd Rdng is a flexible, not fixed, system because you need to use different approaches with different materials and with different purposes

Foveal vision
Only a small part of what you look at is in clear focus at any one time, and that part is said to be in foveal vision. Everything else, which is to a greater or lesser degree out of focus, is in peripheral vision; cf fixation, saccades.

G
Growth mindset
It has been proven that people who believe that intelligence develops with experience and practice are more effective learners than those who believe intelligence is fixed (cf fixed mindset)

H
Highlighting
Highlighting important text (or making margin notes) is an effective way of keeping your attention while reading away from your desk – and makes it easier to check back on those parts later

Hotspots
Words, phrases or sections of text which contain key meaningful information; although initially readers tend to notice words and phrases, the most efficient readers focus on the key message.

I
Incubation

Time needed by the non-conscious mind to ‘sort out’ textual material which has been downloaded.

Incunabulum [in-kyoo-NAB-yuh-luhm]
A book printed during the infancy of printing, especially one produced before 1501

Interest
How interested you are in the subject of the text will influence how quickly you are able to read it; the more you can (even artificially) stimulate your interest, the easier it will be to assimilate the information

J
Joker
Additional book on a non-related topic read during syntopic processing to help you approach the task more creatively.

K
Key words/phrases
Essential words, phrases or sections of text that are essential to understanding, hotspots; these are likely to be nouns and verbs, although it is important to look out for words such as ‘however, although, on the other hand, which indicate that alternative views are being expressed. However, it is more important to read the message than it is to focus on specific words. Key words and phrases are also important when formulating one’s own notes (cf note-taking).

L
Learnacy

The greatest skill to have in the 21st century is what they’re calling ‘learnacy’. On the analogy of literacy and numeracy, learnacy is knowing how to learn, with the aim of dealing with the huge increase in the amount of information we’re bombarded with.

Literary hardware
The term ‘literary hardware’ used to mean a novel as thick as your thigh – and perhaps a pipe to go with it. Today it refers to ebook readers and gizmos such as Elonex electronic reader, Kindle and Sony ebook reader. The full list of ebook readers

M
Margin notes
Making notes in the margin, or highlighting text, can be an effective way of keeping your attention while reading away from your desk – and makes it easier to check back on those parts later

Memory
Memory is an active, constructive system (neural network) that receives, organises and stores informationMemory formation involves the strengthening of synaptic connections between nerve cells. Read Schema below. More about memory

Message not words
Although it can be important to notice specific key words and phrases (hot spots) which are essential to understanding a text, it is more important to read the message than it is to focus on specific words.

Mindset
Changing one’s mindset from ‘how many books have I read?’ (quantity) to ‘how much relevant information have I got?’ (quality) is an important element in accepting the import of other techniques in this approach, and to speeding up reading generally.

Mindmapping
Technique for note-taking and note-making devised by Tony Buzan: key ideas radiate on ‘branches’ from the central subject of the mindmap, and secondary ideas are written on lesser branches radiating from the key idea branches. The technique is preferable to linear note-taking, since it leads to greater creativity and memorability, and it is particularly useful when the structure of the subject is known in advance; cf rhizomapping

Mirror neurons
Mirror neurons are cells devoted purely to mirroring the behaviour of others (for the first time mirror cells found in humans). It is mirror neurons that allow us to feel empathy with others; to make us cry when your best friend cries. When somebody tells you that he feels your pain, it’s the mirror neurons that are doing the work. More on mirror neurons.

Mnemonics
Mnemonics are memory devices to help us to remember. There are different types of mnemonics such as music mnemonics (songs), name mnemonics (Spd Rdng is also a mnemonic – see Spd Rdng), expression or word mnemonics, model mnemonics, ode mnemonics, note organisation mnemonics (mindmaps and rhizomaps – see mindmapping and rhizomapping), image mnemonics (infographics), connection mnemonics (neural networks) and spelling mnemonics.

N
NLP

Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) is a discipline that among other things attempts to influence the subconscious mind and affect positive change by consciously using positive words to refocus on the things within one’s control.

Note-making
Generating your own ideas in note form rather than taking notes from other people, books, lectures, etc (note-taking); we recommend rhizomapping and mindmapping rather than taking linear notes.

Note-taking
Taking notes from other people, books, lectures, etc, rather than generating your own ideas in note form (note-making); we recommend rhizomapping and mindmapping rather than taking linear notes.

O
Online
Many of the techniques people already use for reading online are included in this book because they are effective and efficient – similarly almost all the techniques in this book apply to online reading. See also F-pattern

Overview
The big picture, understanding of the key areas encompassed by a subject (or a text), cf preview.

P
Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule)
The ‘rule’ states that 20% of the effort you expend in any enterprise gives you 80% of the result you want to achieve, while the remaining 80% of your effort generates only the remaining 20%. In reading, the implication is that if you are happy with achieving 80% of your purpose, you will gather five times as much information in the same time. Also, in most books, more than 80% of the message is contained in les than 20% of the words – hence looking for the hot spots of key information (cf Stauffer). Named by Joseph M Juran after the Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, who first noticed that 80% of peas in his garden were produced by 20% of peapods.

Parkinson’s Law
The law states that ‘work expands to fill the time available’. Conversely, setting timeframes for work sessions can speed up the process, since you do not allow yourself excess time ‘to be filled’.

Peripheral vision
Only a small part of what you look at is in clear focus at any one time, and that part is said to be in foveal vision. Everything else, which is to a greater or lesser degree out of focus, is in peripheral vision; cf fixation, saccades

PhotoReading
One (key) step in the Photoreading Whole Mind System; also known as downloading

PhotoReading Whole Mind System
A speed-reading system developed by Paul Scheele which involves previewing, setting a purpose, getting into a good state for reading, PhotoReading (downloading), followed by a range of other activation techniques designed to bring the information to conscious awareness

Physical factors
The physical situation as you read, eg lighting, being comfortable, crossing your ankles, where you hold the book, etc, can greatly affect your ability to understand and take in information.

Prediction
Predicting or guessing what will come next in a text helps keep the mind alert and engaged – an important part of your state

Preview
Looking quickly through a book (eg at chapter headings, index, cover blurb, etc) to get an understanding of what it contains, often to decide whether or not to work with it and to determine what purpose the information it contains might fulfill cf overview.

Primacy effect
Research has shown that you remember more from the beginnings (primacy effect) and endings (recency effect) of work sessions than you do from the middle – it therefore makes sense to take frequent breaks and have more beginnings and endings.

Purpose
Having a clear purpose for reading a book (eg in order to fulfil a task, or improve an aspect of your life) is one of the key techniques for identifying what information is important; a good purpose should be SMART (specific, measureable, achieveable, real, time-bound). Purpose is not to be confused with your life goal (eg passing an exam, getting a job).

Q
Questioning
Asking questions about what you’re reading is one element of keeping your mind active and in an optimal state for taking in information.

R
Random
One of the skittering techniques (a speed-reading eye pattern) people use to look for hot spots of key information when they are (consciously) reading more quickly. As the name implies, in this case there is no clear pattern as such.

Rapid reading (from cover to cover)
Looking briefly at every page of a book, frequently after a work session, as a means of consciously picking up information one might have missed, while being confident that all the information is being absorbed non-consciously (see downloading)

Reading
Deciphering symbols (letters) in order to understand the words and sentences which express the author’s thoughts or message. Whereas writing demands that thoughts are expressed letter by letter, effective reading is a much faster process since it is possible to move onto the next word, sentence or idea as soon as one has understood the previous one. Unfortunately, reading and writing are frequently taught together as if they are similar skills and many people do not progress beyond the basic ability to read words one at a time, possibly vocalising or subvocalising (saying the individual words to themselves) as they read.

Reading rate
Speed at which a person reads with comprehension, usually measured in words per minute.

Recall
Actively bringing back to your mind – one element of remembering. It is much easier to recognise something you have seen before than it is to recall it without prompting

Recency effect
Research has shown that you remember more from the beginnings (primacy effect) and endings (recency effect) of work sessions than you do from the middle – it therefore makes sense to take frequent breaks and have more beginnings and endings.

Recognition
One element of remembering. It is much easier to recognise something you have seen before than it is to recall it without prompting

Regression
When your eyes jump back to text that has already been read – which can significantly slow down reading.

Remembering
Understanding what you read (comprehension) is just the first step of the process. It is also important to have strategies such as note-taking, talking to yourself, etc, in order to remember and be able to recall important information when it is needed.

Review
In order to fix new information in memory, it is helpful to review it at fixed intervals: after 1 day, 1 week, 1 month.

Rhizomapping / Rhizomap
(Procedure devised by Jan Cisek and Susan Norman, term coined by Hugh L’Estrange) Random way of making and taking notes. A rhizome is a plant (like grass) which spreads through its root system and springs up in many different places. It doesn’t have a central stem and it is very robust. (The internet works  kind of rhizomatically.) The concept of rhizome was originally developed by a French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze.
Make or take notes haphazardly on the page. Afterwards, look back at the notes and make links between them, by circling or underlining things in different colours, or drawing lines between them. It is often easier to make a rhizomap when you are not sure in advance what the key ideas are going to be. Once you have made your rhizomap, you might find it satisfying to reorganise your notes into a more coherent mind-map … or you might not! (This idea is currently unique to Spd Rdng.)
Note-taking is an important step in helping you remember what it is you’ve read. Whether or not you refer back to the notes, the activity itself involves making decisions about what it important, and rephrasing the ideas into a shorter form – which helps the ideas crystalise. These ‘crystals’ stick in the brain much more than ideas you have just understood receptively as you have read them. Read more about rhizomapping and rhizomaps

S
Saccades
T
he eyes do not move smoothly and evenly along a line of text when reading. They jump from one point to the next. Each ‘jump’ is called a saccade. Each point where it stops is a fixation. The point of fixation is in focus (in foveal vision), but words to either side will be slightly out of focus (in peripheral vision).

Sameness
It is beneficial consciously to look for sameness and difference when reading. Sameness leads to greater understanding, while difference leads to new learning.

Scanning
Looking quickly through a text in order to find specific information you think it contains (the technique is similar to skimming and rapid reading, but your purpose is to find specific information).

Scheme
In short, scheme is a neural-network or an ‘archive’ of the total knowledge about something that you personally have. So people will have different schemes (in their heads/minds) for different things, depending on their experiences and knowledge. The bigger your schema, the faster you’re going to read because things will make sense faster to you because you already know them. The more you read and see the bigger you make your schema and so on. The bigger your schema (memory) the more resources (knowledge and wisdom) you have to deal with the present moment. Speed reading is one of the best ways to build your schema. By speed reading or just reading, seeing more, experiencing more – from others and yourself – you become a transindividual – benefiting from knowledge and wisdom of people who came before you as well as simulations of the future and people to come.

Skimming
Looking quickly through a text in order to discover its message (the technique is similar to scanning and rapid reading, but your purpose is to get a general understanding of what the text is about).

Skittering
(Term coined by Dr Michael Bennett for) some of the more random speed-reading eye patterns used when skimming or scanning to look for hot spots of key information. Skittering patterns include zigzag, first and last, middles and random; cf super-reading

SMART
A way of evaluating an effective purpose for reading. The acronym stands for: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Real, Time-bound

Smiling
Part of getting into an optimal state for reading; smiling has been proven to help people take in information. It releases endorphins. Research suggests that you read faster when you’re feeling good. Also optimism will strengthen your immune system

Spd Rdng
Name coined by the authors for the flexible approach to reading described on this website which not only involves reading more quickly (speed-reading), but also includes using the non-conscious mind (eg downloading) and applying strategies for identifying, remembering and applying information to materials from a variety of sources for a variety of purposes.
Spd Rdng is also a mnemonic: State purpose download pReview details notes gist

Speed-reading
Speed-reading involves taking fewer fixations and/or using speed-reading eye patterns in order to read more quickly. It is basically a speedier version of ‘traditional’ reading (whereas the whole Spd Rdng approach described on this website also involves strategies for identifying, remembering and applying the information).

Speed-reading eye patterns (also eye patterns)
Patterns such as super-reading, skittering (zigzag, first and last, middles, random) that people use to look for hot spots of key information when they are (consciously) reading more quickly; cf F-pattern

State
Being in the right state while you are reading can enhance your ability to take in and retain information; the ideal state is to be relaxed, alert and questioning. Before you start reading, take a deep breath and relax, smile, and focus on the concentration point to open your peripheral vision. cf eye exercises, brain gym, breaks.

Stauffer, Dr Russell
Stauffer states in his book ‘Teaching Reading As A Thinking Process’ (1969) that in most books the meaning is actually carried by 4-11% of the words, hence the benefit of looking for hot spots of key information.

Subvocalisation
Saying words (silently) to yourself as you read, which may also involve moving your lips. Most people subvocalise to some extent, and when used appropriately, subvocalising is useful when the pronunciation of the word is important, and it can help with processing complex information, or information written in a complex way; however, it is also likely to slow down the reading process since it is only possible to speak (in English) at between about 70-240 words per minute*. Strategies to reduce word-for-word subvocalising include placing the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth, and/or mentally talking to yourself about what you’re reading by questioning or summarizing; cf vocalising (saying the words aloud) * Some people can speak and read faster than 240 words per minute. Steven “Steve” Woodmore is able to articulate 637 words per minute (wpm) and currently trying to slow down the speed of his speech, so as to have a normal conversation with other. Tachylalia is a term for extremely rapid speech. Fran Capo is the fastest female speaker.

Steven “Steve” Woodmore talking at 637 words/minute

Summaries
Summaries are probably the best way to get information quickly. Always look for books with summaries. Research suggests that people who read summaries remember more and for longer than people who read the whole books. Read more about summaries 

Super-duper-reading
(Term coined by Jan Cisek and Susan Norman for) looking quickly down the centre of pages or columns of text in order to speed up the brain so that subsequent reading is quicker (this is the same process as super-reading, but the purpose is different)

Super-reading
Looking quickly down the centre of a page or column for hot spots of key information; one of the speed-reading eye patterns used for looking sequentially through a text (this is the same process as super-duper-reading, but the purpose is different); cf skittering

Syntopic processing
Working with several (2-4) books at one time (usually 75 minutes session) in order to fulfill one purpose (‘syntopic reading’ was briefly described by Mortimer Adler in his book ‘How to Read a Book’); the procedure gives an unprecedented opportunity for comparing and contrasting the ideas of different authors, or for getting an overview of a new subject. It is an ideal technique for getting an overview of a subject or finding specific information from several sources. Spd Rdng offers one-day thematic courses – for example
Speed reading for PROSPERITY 2010

T
Talking
Talking about what you read is an effective technique (a) while you’re reading for reducing subvocalisation and (b) after you’re read for increasing retention

Time-frames Setting time-frames for work sessions (20 minutes), previewing (2-5 minutes) and syntopic processing (75 minutes) can make the process of retrieving information much more efficient.

Trigger words
Words which initially jump out at you when you look quickly through a text. They may be key words for understanding meaning (hot spots), or they may just be things which are familiar to you.

Trust
The more you put these techniques into practice, the more you come to trust that they work. Similarly, the more you trust that they will work, the better they work.

V
Vocabulary
The larger your vocabulary (and your schema), the quicker you will be able to read. Read about schema

Vocalising
Mouthing/saying words to yourself (aloud) while reading them one by one. This is often a remnant from when one learnt to read in childhood and is an extremely inefficient way of taking in information when reading; cf subvocalising (saying the words silently)

W
WIIFM
Acronym standing for: What’s in it for me? It is beneficial to ask this question when formulating your purpose for reading a book.

Wpm (words per minute)
Wpm = number of pages read multiplied by number of words per average page divided by number of minutes spent reading. More on word per minute records

How to calculate your reading speed
• Number of pages read …. (this is enough for most people, but if you want to be more accurate, then do the remaining calculations too)
• Average number of lines on a page …. (choose three representative pages, count the number of lines on each, add them together and divide by three)
• Average number of words in a line …. (choose three full lines, count the number of words in each, add them together and divide by three)
• Number of words read in five minutes …. (multiply together the three previous calculations)
• Reading speed in words per minute …. (divide the number of words read in five minutes by five)

Writing
(1) Writing for note-taking is very helpful for helping you remember what you read. (2) Although reading and writing share many characteristics, it is not helpful to teach them as if they are two sides of the same skill. You always need to write letter by letter and word by word, but it is usually more effective to read chunks of words for their meaning.

Z
Zigzag
One of the skittering techniques (a speed-reading eye pattern) people use to look for hot spots of key information when they are (consciously) reading more quickly. In this case people look sequentially in a (wide or narrow) zigzag pattern down the page or column of text.